Harchit Kohli’s childhood dream to college career

Harchit Kohli’s debut EP, ‘HK24,’ derives its name from his memories of playing ‘Call of Duty’ as a child. Karchit’s music experiments with synthetic sounds and borrowed music. // Photo courtesy of Harchit Kohli

Canadian singer, songwriter and producer Harchit Kohli has had a productive lockdown and is using the amassed momentum to continue to grow. 

The University of Waterloo student recently released his debut EP “HK24,” where listeners hear him experiment with different sounds, from 1980s synthwave to Don Toliver-inspired production.  

In 2021, he released his first three songs; “Freak in You,” “Late Nights” and “I Could Tell.” Wanting to develop further, Kohli was interested in publishing a longer-form piece of music. Unfortunately, he had trouble finding his sound. 

“At first, I was set on an 80s-themed EP which would feature synthwave songs and nostalgic vibes,” Kohli told the Technique. 

“I wrote about two to three songs but while recording them I just didn’t feel motivated. It felt like no matter what I wrote, I would always end up sounding like The Weeknd because he has mastered the current 80s synthwave sound.”

That all changed when he started to write “Soul.” Falling in love with a beat by Sonni — featuring dark flutes, accented strings and heavy 808s — Kohli was more inspired than ever. 

“I love combining different genres, and this instrumental felt like a mix between modern trap and an old vinyl sample,’’ he said. “I began writing and I knew that for a beat with this energy, I would have to match it, so I made a conscious effort to be vocally louder than I have been in any of my other songs.”

Kohli matched the energy by channeling inspiration from Don Toliver, who mixes trap seamlessly with rhythm and blues. 

Although he had written “Want You More” months prior, he was intrigued by the sonics; knowing it had to be on the EP, he wanted to give it his undivided focus. 

“Something about the underlying dark triplet melody repeating throughout the whole song and the simplicity of the lyrics itself was so catchy and I knew this song had to be on the EP,” Kohli said. “The song I took the main inspiration from was ‘Best You Had’ by Don Toliver. The simple, yet catchy hook combined with a repetitive guitar melody made this song appealing to me and I knew I wanted to create something like this.” Although he feels that he did not push the boundary based on the lyrics and melodies used, Kohli wanted to prove to himself that he can make a radio-ready mainstream hit.

Halfway through the EP, he changed scopes and wanted to showcase his artistic prowess. 

“I’m unique and I am passionate about different genres so I wanted to try something outside of hip hop as well,” he said. “I wanted to show that I can make a great song without 808s or drums.”

Kohli approached “Time Flies” in a fairly new manner for him. After finding an acoustic guitar instrumental made by Phyllis and Eeryskies, he freestyled his first run-through and used most of the lyrics that he came up with. 

“‘Time Flies’ is definitely my most personal song, and I love the nostalgic vibe,” he said. “I recorded this song in my university dorm room trying not to bother my roommates but a couple of them heard and actually loved the song, so that gave me more confidence to put it on the project.”

Kohli’s favorite song “Walking on My Love” was produced by YZ, his favorite YouTube producer. He loved the Willie Hutch sample in the beginning. 

“Some people consider using samples as cheating, but […] there is a plethora of old music that will not be heard in this day and age,” Kohli said. 

“I believe appropriately using someone else’s music is a great way to showcase their craft, keep old music alive, and display your ability to work on top of another song.”

Wanting to develop his songwriting, he found melodic inspiration from Justin Bieber’s minor mode melodies.

“This is by far the fan favorite and I’m beyond glad that my listeners enjoy this song because it is the most original and experimental song,” Kohli said.

He titled the EP “HK24” because of a childhood memory.

“When I was a kid I would play ‘Call of Duty’ with my friends and one of them would use a gun called an HK and he would always pick it up and say ‘Yo look it is you,’” Kohli said. 

“Since then I stuck with it for my producer name because I felt it was just unique to me. So for my first ever project with multiple songs, I figured what better name to call my EP than ‘HK24,’ something that means something and represents me.”

Based on his approach to this EP, it is clear that Kohli takes a very analytical approach to his music. 

He knows the sound he wants to emulate, the production he requires and the story he wants to tell. 

When manufacturing music like this, many artists seem to lose the artistic aspect, but Kohli uses this mindset to complement his love of music. He knows which battles he wants to fight and makes a game plan to confront them headfirst.

“I can’t wait to put out more music and just see where it takes me,” Kohli said. 

“I love music — always have and always will. Every day I am getting better as an artist, a vocalist and a musician. I keep working on my craft by myself. I want to keep pushing my boundaries and just keep practicing because I really do care about this. I want to keep progressing and it’s my goal to be one of the best to do this.”